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The Language of the Culinary Profession


Names for Dishes

Culinary techniques, cooking methods, ingredients and kitchen utensils are only the means of creating the final product the dish itself. The custom of naming dishes is very old and was known already in Roman times. Although it is difficult to trace the origin of all terms, many dishes plainly point to countries, regions, cities, and trades, while others are named in honour of historical or other more or less famous person, with emperors, kings, and princes being especially numerous, e.g., Béchamel sauce (after Marquis de Béchamel), Richelieu garnish (after the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu), and Timbale Pompadour (after Marquise de Pampadour).

The professional chef will refer to a classical dish by its French name. French names are also used as recipe titles in professional cookery books or for dishes on the bill of fare. Nowadays they will be normally supplied with an English translation. However, it is the translation itself that most clearly reveals to what extent English cuisine has become a tributary of the French. There are no English words for omelette, escalope, entrecote, vinaigrette, croquettes, mousse, quenelles, soufflé, pâté, gateau, sorbet there seems to be no limit to the number of these detachable items, which can be incorporated into English. Not surprisingly, the translation often does not look very much different from the original, as the following dinner menu shows: 

French English

Consommé aux Perles du Japon

Filet de colin Bercy

Poulet en Cocotte à la Paysanne

Salade Mercédès

Mon Rêve

Consommé with Tapioca

Fillet of Hake Bercy

Chicken in Cocotte à la Paysanne

Mercedes Salad

Mon Rêve

In more popular cookery books, offering selections of menus, the English version tends to give a definition or explanation of a dish, rather than a translation. For example:

Crème Chantilly
(Split pea or lentil soup)
Gigot dAgneau Romerain
(Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and honey)
Petits pois à la Française
(Peas cooked in a French style)
Pommes au Four
(Baked jacket potatoes)
Fraises Marquise
(Fresh strawberries with strawberry fool)
(Dry biscuits or sponge fingers)





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Culinary Language
1066 and All That
Middle English Recipes
Carving Meat
Haute Cuisine
French Restaurant in Embryo
Modern Terminology
Culinary Techniques
Cooking Ingredients
Names for Dishes
Names for Courses